MORRISTOWN, NJ - On February 26th, the Mayo Performing Arts Center became the site of the annual Morristown OnStage Talent Show.
Since early January, 15 talented acts have been rehearsing for this show, which has been organized and conducted by the Morris Educational Foundation (MEF) for the past 13 years. Morristown OnStage acts as a fundraiser for the 501(c)(3) corporation, which has been striving to enhance educational opportunities for over 5,200 students in all 10 schools of the Morris School District, from preschool through high school.
In the years of its existence, Morristown OnStage has collected over $845,000 for countless projects and initiatives at local Morris schools. Last season saw about $175,000 gathered for MEF.
“I am just extremely excited for this show,” said Chrissie Wetherbee, MEF Executive director.“Each year, we get better and better. I’m excited to use this as a platform to share with everyone how wonderful our schools are in the Morris region as well as to show how talented our community is.”
The entertaining acts featured local individuals doing their own dancing, singing, instrument playing, or all of the above. This season, the acts, in the 18 and under category, included Bobbi Baitey (singer), Bobby Becht (singer), Dylan Sarah Klug (singer), Zion Pearson (singer), students of the Shining Starz Dance Academy, Maggie Waldron (singer) and Cooper Weil (singer). And this season’s performers in the 19 and over category included Laura Ana Blanche & Zachary Wheeler (duet), Neillea Dee (guitar/singer) (SEE THE VIDEO BELOW), David Gallagher & Ross Chu (musical performance), Jonathan Freschl (piano/singer), LUCA (guitar/duet), Olivia Restivo (singer) and Jennifer Wydra (piano). All performers felt well-polished and motivated after a month of practicing, and thus determined to take home the grand prize.
“It’s been a really long time since the first auditions, but I’m excited,” said Jonathan Freschl, a Morristown resident who played the piano and sang an original song inspired by his grandmother Ida. “The Morris Educational Foundation is a plus in the community and a great addition to the fun of the event.”
Tara Bernie, Emmy Award-winning senior correspondent on DailyMailTV and five-time Emmy nominee as a senior producer at Access Hollywood, served as the master of ceremonies at this year’s Morristown OnStage.
The judges who observed the talent show included Bill Stephney, principal executive for Broad Market Media, Josh Gannet, professional recording/mixing engineer, producer, artist/tour manager, and artist relations representatives, John Ginty, professional musician, Terrie Carr, program director and Midday Personality at WDHA/The Rock of New Jersey, and Lori Brown Mirabal, award-winning singer.
When all the music and singing and dancing was complete, winners were selected. For the first place prize of $1,000, for contestants ages 19 and over, the winner was Neillea Dee. For the first place prize of $1,000, for contestants ages 18 and under, the winner was The Shining Starz Dance Academy. For the $500 award, the “Audience Choice,” the winner was Zion Pearson (SEE VIDEO BELOW). And for the $250 Rossoff Rising Star Award, for talent training chosen by the Morristown OnStage Steering Committee, the winner was Jonathan Freschl.
There was also a new award this year known as the New York Jets Take Flight Award, where two winners in each category get a chance to audition to sing the national anthem at MetLife Stadium during a New York Jets game! The two winners included Neillea Dee and Bobbi Baitey; the latter of whom also performed with the Morristown High School theater group during the show’s intermission in a selection from the Broadway musical “Into the Woods.”
“I feel really good and confident on stage,” said Bobbi Baitey, who is a junior at Morristown High and closed off the show with her take on the song “Listen” by Beyonce. “I feel useful for a great cause and really talented since they’ve first chosen me during auditions.” (SEE VIDEO BELOW)
And the crowd, numbering to a full house of 1,300 people, were happy to attend, root on the people they support, see how talented their community is and donate to the Morris Educational Foundation.
“It’s fun to be here,” said Morristown resident Douglas Vorolieff. “I’m enjoying it very much and it’s a great way to get the community involved with the schools. That makes it a win-win for everyone.”
Morristown resident Amanda Wolff, who attended with her sons Nathan (8) and Gabe (5), also enthralled by the local talent.
“Morristown OnStage is a wonderful production that is engaging, thrilling and exciting,” said Wolff, who is also a teacher at Morristown’s Normandy Park School. “I love the variety of acts they show from the local area. The Morris Educational Foundation is the best and if it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have the things we do in our classrooms.”
Morristown Medical Center Atlantic Health System was this year’s headline sponsor for Morristown Onstage.
To learn more about the Morris Educational Foundation, visit their website at https://www.morrisedfoundation.org/.